Workplace stress costs the UK economy some £1.24bn and 105 million lost days each year. It doesn’t discriminate, it can affect everyone at every level and across every industry sector. But when it affects those in a position of seniority and leadership, its affects can filter down throughout the rest of the organisation.
At a time when the social and healthcare sectors face a leadership vacuum which could add further strain to the sectors’ already limited resources, the need for senior members of staff to better manage their own levels if stress has never been greater.
So what can be done about it?
According to a study conducted by Harvard and Stanford universities, work-related stress could result in a 33-year deduction in a person’s lifespan.
Here we take a look at how a number of recognisable business leaders from the corporate world tackle their own stress and the lessons that we in the private health and care sectors can take from them.
Steve Jobs is perhaps one of the most over-quoted business leaders in a generation. His success is undeniable but he also had difficulty managing the stress that came with it. One approach that he used was to practice a type of meditation, which involved sitting down, quietly observing his immediate environment.
Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos is less contemplator, more doer. Rather than deliberate a problem he prefers to adopt the Napoleon “There shall be no Alps” approach by seeing an obstacle as an opportunity to find another way to achieve the same result. It gives him a fresh perspective on situation bit by starting the ball rolling, he believes that the challenges and stresses he faces can be shifted.
Fellow tech entrepreneur Liu Chuanzhi, founder of Lenovo, has also come to recognise the importance of “me-time”. Every few weeks, Chuanzhi would take himself off somewhere “to think carefully about my work and how well I was progressing towards my goals” – both professional and personal.”
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, is another business leader who recognises the importance of taking himself out of a situation. He claims to seek some quality alone time first before making a key business decision.
Steve Tappin, a management coach who specialises in working with CEO’s, says that the best leaders are able to “achieve balance and happiness outside work, which means the business doesn’t subsume them and they can sustain themselves and stay fresh over time.”
He says that “top CEOs don’t get stuck in the day-to-day running [of the business] but instead build a system of the right team and instil the right mind-set and performance standards so it can run without them.”
Of course stress is not just being prone to exhaustion and poor health caused by long hours and the constant pressure to pacify key stakeholders which can often lead to burn-out, it can also be positive. Indeed, sometimes the decision to take a certain cause of action – which may have significant business benefits – can also cause stress, albeit in a different form.
Managing stress is a case of striking the right balance between your personal and professional life and having a clear understanding of what you want to get out of them both.